Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rural Electrification

Oak tree down: Saturday Jan 21, 2012, 8 AM.

Living among the redwoods is not without its perils--one of which is falling trees. During the summer the trees grow bushy and top-heavy; then winter rains loosen the soil around the roots and some trees succumb to the force of gravity. Every year during the first big rain we can count on losing electricity  for a day or so when a tree falls across a power line. Trees have been known to fall on cars and even houses during the redwood rainy season.

Saturday morning, after a night of heavy rain, I was awoken at 8 AM by the sound of a big tree falling somewhere close by and the "beep-beep" of my computer's UPS switching to battery power. I put on my robe and walked up to the road to check on my car and the neighbor's houses. I found that a big oak had fallen across the main access road to our little community as well as taking down power, telephone and cable lines. The stress on the lines had also snapped a power pole which fed the rest of the neighborhood. Until the tree was removed, which was accomplished by Davey Tree around 2 PM, the PG&E crews could not get in to repair the damage.

Electric power pole snapped by fallen tree.
Fortunately the rain had stopped and it was still daylight. The PG&E crew arrived with their big trucks and checked the extent of the damage. Their main complaint was the narrowness of our roads covered with mud and lined by deep ditches. I have seen PG&E trucks get stuck in the mud here on other occasions. But not this time.

These guys went straight to work, pulled out the stump of the old power pole, drilled a new hole, then rigged and erected a new pole on the spot. But the wires were still down and it was getting dark.

Drilling the hole for new power pole (on right).
The pole was up, the lines were down but it was getting dark. The crew donned headlamps and placed small generator-powered spotlights along the road to illuminate the scene. A two-man crew went up the pole and began cutting, splicing and attaching wires beginning with the topmost high-voltage lines and then the lower household-voltage lines plus installing the frames to hold these wires and the cable TV and telephone lines.

PG&E workers rigging the new pole in the dark.
Meanwhile other workers were hoisting wires and fixing broken connections on the ground and on the other poles. In the spotlights, in the headlights, with the sound of big engines and small generators and the sight of helmeted men carrying strange tools and intent on accomplishing mysterious tasks, our cozy neighborhood took on the look of a science-fiction movie set.

Night creatures refilling our homes with charged Fermions.
By 8 PM we all had electric power again--it only took 5 hours once the trucks could get past the fallen tree.  These men really knew what they were doing and seemed to be having a good time doing it. I have seen them doing the same job under much more stressful situations--on the much trafficked main highway, at night, full rainstorm with landslides partly closing the roadway. Thanks PG&E for so quickly restoring our electricity. You guys are real heroes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Nick Meets the Galactic Telepaths

Nick Herbert parts the veils between worlds
In the early 60s I had experimented with the then-legal consciousness-expanding drugs LSD and peyote (available by mail from a ranch in Texas) and was ready to explore the effects of a substance considered so satanic by the American government that it is classed with heroin and its use forbidden even to sober scientists.

For me legal LSD and peyote acted as gateway drugs to the illegal use of marijuana.

At that time the street price of marijuana was $100 a "key" (kilogram = 2.2 pounds) which was broken down into "lids" (each about an ounce) which sold for between 5 and 10 dollars--the so-called nickel and dime bags. Unlike today's powerful sinsemilla buds, yesterday's marijuana was mostly leaf which had to be separated from seeds and stems. And to obtain pot, one had to have connections with a (technically) criminal underground. For the sake of science I made such connections and learned how to "clean a key" and "roll a joint". My mind seems to have an affinity for this forbidden substance and I have since had many unusual experiences with cannabis in various forms.

One evening I was alone in my house in Los Trancos Woods when Paul and his wife Miriam dropped by. Paul was a Stanford med student (now a therapist in So Cal) who was interested in psychedelics and psychodrama. I rolled a joint and we "got high". Someone suggested that we read aloud and I proposed "The Song of Songs". "I hate the Song of Songs," said Miriam. "Let's try this," she said, picking up an old college humor magazine from a pile of books. Miriam began to read and pot's ability to make the lowest silliness seem profoundly funny began to kick in. We laughed at Miriam's every word.

We laughed and laughed. And then something strange happened. It seemed to all three of us that there was only one person laughing. We had merged minds, so it seemed, into one laughing entity. "It's the sound," Paul conjectured. "It's the sound that's uniting us." So shocking was this new experience that we quickly came down. Drawing pictures on a napkin, Paul gave a mock-scientific explanation of the cannabis molecule's action on the brain which we all found funny but we were now laughing separately not as one being. They invited me to a party but I claimed to be too stoned (on one shared 60s joint?) to be good company. Paul and Miriam left and I stoked up the fire in my living room and prepared to enjoy an evening by myself.

Then inside my head the voices began to speak.

They claimed to be an ancient group of galactic telepaths traveling through space mind-to-mind rather than in clunky metal ships. "Here is what we do," they said and suddenly I experienced a kind of LSD trip. Then they turned off the "mind ray" and I become completely normal. They took me in and out of this odd psychological space several times to show off (I suppose) their prowess in the mental realm.

Then the aliens revealed the purpose of their visit. They were inviting me to join the conspiracy of galactic telepaths. They told me that some of my friends were already members. Unlike "Tony the angel" whose voice projected a clear persona, these alien voices seemed colorless, like ticket agents or office clerks. My initial response was that if this community really existed its goals would differ from human goals as much as human goals differ from the goals of fishes. This group must by necessity be non-human. So by joining it I would in some sense be betraying the human race.

The aliens seemed to understand my misgivings, but assured me that although I qualified for membership, there was no pressure to join. Then they withdrew from my mind and left me alone.

For the next few days I was obsessed with this contact and tried to discover other members of the group. Some of my psychedelic pals in the Stanford psychology department were prime candidates but they all shrewdly denied being galactic telepaths.

If this offer was real then I missed my chance to meet a million alien beings, to learn startlingly new truths about the mental and physical universe and to hear dozens of alien ethnic jokes.

On the other hand, if this experience was a message from my larger self, it may have been a prescient hint concerning the nature of quantum tantra--a more intimate way of doing physics that may look less like the physics of today and more like the sort of science practiced by galactic telepaths.