Category Archives: commentary
The Valles Caldera is Only Dormant
By G G Collins (Copyright 2021)
Excerpt from Anasazi Medium, Chapter 8
Yellowstone isn’t the only supervolcano in the United States. The Valles Caldera is located in northern New Mexico in close proximity to the Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) and the Rio Grande. An eruption from the dormant, but not extinct, volcano could cause significant interruptions to life or extinguish life depending on the force of the eruption. Some of you will recognize the Valles Caldera as the location of the Longmire sheriff’s ranch.
Images, except the above, are from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.
We pick up with an interview which journalist Rachel Blackstone is having with character Professor Axel Saxon at the University of New Mexico, Earth and Planetary Science. We join them with the interview already in progress.
“How dangerous is the Valles Caldera?” Rachel asked.
“It is considered a young supervolcano in that it erupted 1.25 million years ago. It’s geothermal and responsible for the hot springs that populate the area. We also know it is dormant, not extinct. The caldera is about 20 kilometres or 13 miles wide. A supervolcano isn’t one eruption, but multiple eruptions occurring at once. When the volcanic pressure cooker just can’t take anymore and it releases pent up energy in many places.”
He showed Rachel another map showing the resurgent lava dome, called Redondo Peak, and the smaller domes around it.
“If it were to erupt again,” Rachel asked. “What force are we talking about?”
“Supervolcanoes have an eruption of magnitude eight,” Saxon paused. “That’s the largest on the VEI or Volcanic Explosivity Index.”
“So this type of eruption really isn’t within our experience in the near past?” Rachel asked.
“No. You’ve heard of Pinatubo, Krakatau and a U.S. volcano called Mount St. Helens?”
“These are inconsequential by comparison to the Valles Caldera. Even Crater Lake and Tambora are smaller. Only the Yellowstone supervolcano is larger.”
“Are you aware that the last time the Yellowstone erupted that ash and dead animal bones were found as far away as Nebraska? The three Yellowstone eruptions we know about produced enough ash to fill the Grand Canyon and were 2500 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Today, if Yellowstone went off it would immediately kill 90,000 people. Those not dead would be standing calf-deep in ash. The nuclear winter to follow could cause famine as the great breadbasket of the world, the States, would likely not be able to grow much.”
“What would the results be of a Valles Caldera eruption?” Rachel asked.
“First there would be the ash fallout to consider. Not only would any planes in the area be at risk of losing engine performance and therefore crash, but water contamination could result and rooftop collapse. That is especially a problem for flat roofs that can be found all over our area, but especially prominent in Santa Fe due to the Pueblo architecture.
Tent Rocks (Kasha-Katuwe) was created with volcanic ash fallout, perhaps 1/4 mile thick. Enough to have cooked a moderate-sized city.
“Agriculture would be adversely affected, maybe not even possible. Livestock would become ill and die from breathing the ash and gases.
“People would also experience health issues and some, maybe many, would die. It would depend on the size of the eruption.
Notice the proximity of Los Alamos (LANL) to the Valles Caldera.
“We don’t even know how it would affect power-producing plants. And yes, we don’t know if the damage to the LANL would be sufficient to release plutonium and other nuclear materials into the air. If so, that could be cataclysmic in terms of loss of life.
“As to the influence on the country and the world; again, depending on the size of eruption, it could bring about the nuclear winter where ash would block the sun and make agriculture impossible. And this brings me to the most lasting product of supervolcanoes: worldwide famine, millions—maybe billions—of refugees, satellite disruption and the crash of world financial markets.”
“Good god,” Rachel said. “All because a New Mexico volcano wakes up.”
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Thanks for reading.
The Year of Living Dangerously
By G G Collins Copyright 2021
What Went Wrong?
As I watched the events unfolding yesterday at the US Capitol, I am reminded that the past year has been one of tumult, chaos and fear.
The year began fairly normally, although there were already reports in late 2019 of a pneumonia in China that wasn’t responding to protocol treatments. By February, it was apparent that we would need to find ways to cope with an impending pandemic. We could see it coming from the horrible losses in China, Italy and other European countries.
In the beginning it was met with uplifting song, improvised music and appreciative applause for healthcare workers. But in the US, it has been reported that desperately sick people are cursing hospital staff as they try to treat them, yelling “It’s only the flu!”
A New Reality
The early months of the pandemic dissolved into physical scraps in grocery stores over toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Empty shelves mocked hopeful shoppers. It was nearly impossible to buy or steal a mask. Fortunately Etsy and other indie platforms stepped up. Restaurants, bars, churches, offices closed. Instead of “working from home offices” it became “remote working.”
Although we’ve have always considered firefighters, police, EMTs and hospital staff to be frontline workers, the designation took on new meaning. Grocery store, pharmacy and meat packing plant employees were drafted into duty as frontline workers.
Suddenly, going to the grocer or picking up a prescription became a red line to step over; a threat to be weighed. Do I really need that loaf of bread? Do I risk my life for a carton of milk? Should I keep my yearly physical or dental appointment? Is it safe?
Is Anything Right With the World?
I’m lucky. I can work remotely; have for years. But that doesn’t make me immune from stress and COVID-19. Unable to do anything about the pandemic, but report on it, I began looking for small things to uplift my spirit and remind me that some things were still going along as expected.
My neighbor has the old-fashioned idea that laundry should be hung outside to dry. She enjoys the crunchy feel of a sunshine-drenched sheet. I began looking for her hanging laundry, because it was a normal occurrence BP (Before Pandemic). Having a garden has been a lifesaver. Not only can I get outside, but watching things grow is therapeutic.
It’s not over, in fact, the worst of the pandemic may still await us, even as the vaccine parade forms. We have to get through it; there isn’t a way around it. We can’t beg or bribe our way out of a pandemic; but must abide.
There is no choice but to continue the year of living dangerously.
Because I’ve always mentioned Sam and Dean in my Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mysteries, I’m publishing this piece on both blogs.
The End of the Road
By G G Collins Copyright 2020
From the beginning, Supernatural has been about more than two brothers slaying monsters. The series has been researched; a satisfying recipe of biblical, lore and fabrication. Drawn by good storytelling, humor and a bit—okay more than a bit—of stage blood thrown around, it caught the attention of several generations. The two stars (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) were barely known when the series began 15 years ago, but soon the characters of Sam and Dean became household words. Supernatural took us places we’ve never been before.
The boys have been thoroughly tested. They’ve had visits to the “cage” and been resurrected. They gone black and white and they’ve been on almost every night of the week. And still fans followed. Dean with his testosterone-laden personality and Sam who—except when he lost his soul—was the more sensitive of the two have created a good hunter/maniacal hunter amalgamation. And through all the ups and downs of their relationship and their passion for their work, they have remained family despite a few dissonant separations.
It is the humor and the asides of this horror series that has kept audiences tuning in for more than a decade. Remember Dean on the airplane in Season One? Screaming like a girl! Ackles recreated that scream again in “Yellow Fever” when he was infected with ghost sickness. It’s a classic; the rugged character showing unreasonable fear. And fun.
In their more poignant moments they have showed compassion. Even Dean has that ability on occasion. In “Roadkill” Molly (Tricia Helfer) doesn’t know she is dead and every year she endures her death once again. When they finally convince her, and she walks into the light they become reflective.
Dean says: “…you think she’s really going to a better place?”
Sam replies: “I hope so.”
Dean adds: “I guess we’ll never know. Not until we take the plunge ourselves, huh?”
Sam says: “Doesn’t really matter, Dean. Hope’s kind of the whole point.” (This is my favorite line of the show.)
As the storyline evolved, other characters were introduced. Jim Beaver (Bobby Singer not to be confused with the producer/director of the series, or maybe?) became a father figure for the boys and their go-to guy for lore. “Weekend at Bobby’s” was Beaver’s moment to shine and we weren’t disappointed.
Misha Collins’ Castiel could make a righteous entrance and became the boys’ “wing man.” Collins played both giggling social media addict (“The French Mistake”) and vengeful angel with equal aplomb. Who knows how many tan trench coats he went through. But bloody or not, Collins is always good.
Then came along Mark A. Sheppard as the king of hell. Sheppard milked every scene and we loved it. He’s bad and that ain’t good. He’s that friend you can never trust. Sheppard played him with a sly absurdity that was a pleasure to watch.
In a bit of inspiration, Kim Rhodes was cast as Sheriff Jody Mills. Usually women played reapers, demons and angels, with the exception of their mother (Samantha Smith). But Rhodes was given a meatier role. She had to carefully enforce the law while becoming one of the guys. In the “Time After Time” episode where Dean traveled backward and met Eliot Ness, she was trying to get Sam to rest and said, “Do I have to use my mom voice.” It was the perfect combination of authority figure and mother.
Early on, it was reported that Eric Kripke (creator) wanted to use a classic Mustang as “Baby,” but was informed there wasn’t enough room in the trunk for a body. So chosen instead was the 1967 Chevy Impala. They did get that Mustang in there during the apocalypse Season 5 when the red horseman drove into town in a red classic pony car. Baby is such an inherent part of the show it had its own episode appropriately titled “Baby.”
Throughout the series, we’ve been treated to a plethora of rock ‘n roll music that the boys’ father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) introduced to Dean. It has made for a rousing soundtrack. And don’t forget all those gaudy motel rooms; absolutely inspired! The person in charge of the wallpaper needs an Emmy please.
And so we find ourselves near the end of the road. It’s been a great ride and while we don’t want it to end, that was always implied; they are hunters after all.
How do I want it to end?
Sam looks up from laptop.
Sam: “There’s a report of an Ōkami in Kansas City.”
Dean: “Hey, aren’t they’re mostly found in Japan?”
Sam: “What do you want to do?”
Dean: “What we always do.”
Boys leave the bunker.
(“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas plays)
Fade to black.
As we say goodbye to old friends I can’t help but think of what Chuck/God (Rob Benedict) said about writing the books to be known as the Winchester Gospel.
Endings are hard.