Joe Dirt

It seems this week and last week I’ve had the Anti-Midas Touch.

Rather than turning to gold, everything I touch turns to dust. Do I let go or push on?


Parts of this video were shot on our track at San Francisco State University. It shows my javelin thrower Shawna with my mentor Dr. C. Harmon Brown, as well as my thrower Marisa doing chest flys in the weight room, and some other athletes training at San Francisco State University.

Growing Up

I’m proposing a new yardstick for maturity: Maturity can be measured by the amount of fear felt by a person in any situation.

The amount of fear felt doesn’t always match the amount displayed. If a person displays a fearful reaction (which can be observed as sadness (I am not loved-If I am not loved I might die), anger (If I do not get justice, I might die), withdrawl (I will retreat in fear before I get killed), etc., even extreme joy is a reaction to a withdrawn sense of fear – professional comedians are in business because they are sensitive/fearful people who can access and communicate subtley the spectrum of people’s fears). Fear is a non-useful stress reaction that will cause undue stress and aging in the body. Very rarely does it ACTUALLY protect us from death. The trick is learning which battles to fight…learning to discern better and truly let slide the things that will not kill us in the end.

Wisdom is generally recognized as making decisions devoid of fear; understanding the “big picture.”

Campfire Chemistry

11/22/12 Update Note:

This article was thrown up in 2007 after a quick Google research project and it appears that the campfire temperature figure of 2000K was pretty off! The source was a high school teacher’s website as you can see below. Well, that was what was available at the time. There are several other Google listed results now for campfire temperature that seem to put the figure much lower. The campfire clearly didn’t melt the copper and therefore gaseous reactions on the copper side are unlikely, so what explains the color?

It turns out that Chlorine gas (released when burning rubber) reacts with Copper to form Copper Chloride, which is a brownish-yellow solid. Upon reaction with water, Copper Chloride forms, which creates blue and green-colored liquids/crystals.

“Copper(II) chloride is also used in pyrotechnics as a blue/green coloring agent. In a flame test, copper chlorides, like all copper compounds, emit green-blue.” Wikipedia

So there you have it – some combination of copper and copper chlorides likely are putting on the show.


So I learned a new campfire trick this weekend that has awakened the dormant chemical engineer in me. I am determined to get to the bottom of this one so my research is below. The trick is that if you buy a tube of copper and insert it into a garden hose (or any other kind of rubber hose, so I was told), and toss it into the campfire, it will create a dazzling light show of greens and blues in the campfire. I believe my hosts inserted a black rubber hose into a copper tube sealed on one side…same effect.

Below is an example of some of the colors.
Copper and Rubber Fire IMG_0125

I was immediately curious about which specific chemicals were involved, and naturally, what heath concerns there were to be had.

All I was able to observe was that there was gas produced by a reaction (the colors did not stem right from the copper tube, they were spread over the whole fire), and you don’t get the normal “burning rubber” smell when it burns in this way. Some people will also bore holes into the copper pipe which supposedly helps the process along.

Here’s my research so far:
Colors: Green & Blue Flames
Campfire Temperature: Up to 3140 degrees Farenheit, hot enough to melt copper and cause many gaseous reactions
Main chemicals involved in producing color: Copper with Chlorine produces blue flames, Copper itself will give off green light when very hot
Health Concerns: Burning anything that contains chlorine/chlorinated plastic will create poisonous gases that will lay the foundation for cancer in your body. Burning rubber/plastic = BAD. Don’t do it every weekend.

Rubber Hose Composition:
“The garden hose material that you seek is to make this colored flame work well is poly vinyl chloride (PVC). When combined with the copper it will produce very lovely flames. When you burn this material it releases several gases. One of those gases being phosgene gas. Perhaps you have heard of this gas. It was quite popular during World War I where it was used as a chemical weapon. I will take my campfires without any nerve gas please.”

“The majority of garden hoses are made of one of four types of materials: rubber, polyurethane, vinyl, or recycled rubber. Vinyl hoses are probably the least expensive hoses but they have the shortest life span. Rubber and reinforced rubber hoses are slightly more expensive and also more flexible, hence they will most likely outlast a cheap vinyl hose. A hose with an added layer of outer cord reinforcement (made with nylon or rubber) will best resist abrasion and wear. Hardier, reinforced hoses can withstand weather changes and punctures.”

Rubber Research:
“Indeed, burning tires spew deadly chemicals into the air, including hydrocarbons, dioxins, hydrogen chloride, arsenic, nickel, zinc and chromium.”

“It may come as a surprise to some to learn that most garden hoses leach lead and are unsafe for drinking. Warning labels accompany these hoses in many cases, but not all. A lead-free garden hose will clearly be marked as safe for drinking. These hoses are often sold as marine or recreational vehicle (RV) hoses. While there can be minute amounts of lead found even in tap water, hoses made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or brass fittings can leach unsafe levels of lead into the water. Lead is used in the manufacturing process of brass fittings to make the brass malleable in order to shape it, and is also used as a stabilizer in PVC. According to a May 2003 article from Consumer Reports, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deemed safe levels of lead to be less than 15 parts per billion. Consumer Reports tested 16 of the most popular hoses sold nationwide, finding that many leached up to 100 times that amount at the initial flush of standing water.

Campfire Temperature: “A camp fire is ~ 2,000K” (That’s about 3140 degrees Farenheit)

Plastics Research:
Burning plastics is also very very bad for you. Backyard trash burning is thought to be one of the biggest sources of dioxin poisoning.
“Some types of plastic contain elements besides the standard carbon,hydrogen, and oxygen. Nylons contain nitrogen, and polyvinyl chloridecontains, of course, chlorine.”

Copper Research:
From the Cupric Chloride MSDS:
“copper fume…can cause symptoms similar to the common cold, including chills and stuffiness of the head.”

“Copper (I) chloride salts imparts a blue colour to flames. The picture above shows the colour arising from adding cuprous chloride (CuCl) to a burning mixture of potassium chlorate and sucrose. This flame is relatively cool. Hotter flames burn green bacause of emission from copper atoms (only to be demonstrated by a professionally qualified chemist following a legally satisfactory hazard asessment).”

“When you heat copper ions, the energy “excites” electrons and pushes them into higher energy levels. Being in this excited state is not particularly stable, so the electron rapidly returns to the ground state and emits a photon (a particle of light) to release the energy it gained by being excited. These photons are the green light you see from excited copper atoms returning to the ground state.”

Crazy Times

My schedule is as hectic this week as it has ever been. Here are some of the things I am getting completely overwhelmed with in a typical day this week (including some of the things I think about but don’t have time to do). Thank God I don’t have any REAL problems!:

  • Clean and Sell my car within a month
  • Find 3 roommates to share a new apartment in 3 weeks
  • Work my morning day job
  • Massage clients in the afternoon
  • Answer the phone for my massage office
  • Train my new employees
  • Manage the conversion of my massage office contractors, meet with payroll, accounting, and lawyers, & work with the city to permit my new office
  • Figure out how to keep from going bankrupt next month
  • Figure out what my boyfriend is doing 6 months from now
  • Get ready for my 2nd 10-year reunion in 2 weeks on Friday…in North Dakota!
  • Followup on my 1st 10-year reunion; pictures, summary, website updates, etc.
  • Plan a hammer throwing training camp and start advertising it
  • Write a month-long training plan for one of my athletes
  • Blog about my life, ideas
  • Feed and water my cat
  • Water my plants
  • Sort my mail
  • Sort my emails
  • Feed myself
  • Watch the new season of Project Runway
  • Start posting to my new hammer blog
  • Figure out how to actually make money in my massage business
  • Try not to pull all of my hair out
  • Exercise/yoga (notice how far up the list this one made it)
  • Read (yeah, right)
  • Study a foreign language, go to the beach, clean my room (forget about it)

Haha, I’m listening to a Staind song: “Can’t see through this, too much pressure. Can’t see through this, too much pressure.”


But still have a smile tonight. I may actually be psychotic.

Entitlement, Living Beyond Your Means, and Moving On

I knew this would be an interesting summer. I just didn't know the extent!

I've finally hit rock bottom financially living in San Francisco. It took me 1 year and 9 months to max out all my available credit, and now I must begin the slow, painful process of shedding luxuries and living within my means.

I've always been a bit confused about what my "means" actually were. When I was a child, I always felt I deserved the nice things everyone else seemed to have. As a college student, my 'means' became how much I would make after college. When I had a high-paying job, it was how much I was earning plus what my home value was speculated to be.

Now, I think I still have the degree and the means to earn money, but have chosen to blaze my own trail and follow my passions, my way, and they just so happen not to be passions that involve piles and piles of steaming cash.

I'm selling my pride and joy Prius, and I'm moving out of my 775/month room in hopes for something half that price, if it exists in this town.

I went to the Toyota dealership to get a quote on my car and fate had it that another woman was there reluctantly trading in her Prius as well. She asked me what I was doing and why, and when I told her I couldn't afford the payments, her companion gave her a hug and said, 'see, you're not the only one.'

Yes, poor, poor Americans, I know. I will be forming the San Francisco PPP support group, People Parting with Priuses.

It actually feels very good going back to my impoverished roots. I believe that when I am ready to handle money responsibly, it will come my way. I managed to make and blow over a quarter million dollars in 3 years. George Bush would be so proud!

Easy come, easy go. Time for the next chapter. I'll go grab my shovel.


Between the Body Worlds exhibit and the movie Wanted, I’ve seen enough human carnage in the past 2 days to last a lifetime. Bite of thigh, anyone?

Eating Vegan

Okay, first off, I am not trying to tell you I am vegan now. I love me some dairy, and a life without milk chocolate sounds sad.

One thing that keeps me from doing it is knowing that I will become a sensitive sissy if I do. Here's the analogy: If you take someone that smokes a pack a day and you have them smoke one more cigarette, they will hardly notice any effect. But if you have a young child (or me) with nice pink lungs smoke one, they will feel like they are choking themselves.

There's something about switching your diet to eliminate the middle man (the animals that come between the seeds, plants and your stomach) that re-trains your stomach to operate on a new level of efficiency, or so I've been told.

People always ask me how I get enough protein on my diet sans meat, as if I'm wasting away. People in this country are so used to planning their meals around the meat that they can't imagine a meal without it. There is so much prejudice in the athletic world that I want to get back into full time training just to show people you don't NEED meat. Look at the elephant…no meat, no problem. I wouldn't mess with an elephant OR call one a sissy.

Burning Trash

I remember an assignment in an honors college critical thinking class to bring in a song with meaningful lyrics. We had to read the lyrics aloud then play the song for everyone. Everyone laughed or snickered when it was my turn and told them I had brought a song by Alanis Morisette (it was ‘Would Not Come’).

But by the time I had finished reading the lyrics, they understood why I had chosen that song. While they were expecting a scorned lover’s song, what they got was something much broader and more relevant.

Today’s lyric is another gem I found in a Switchfoot song (Golden (Album Version), off their Nothing is Sound album), a band I never would have volunteered to see in concert were it not for a friend who had tickets.

‘There’s a fear that burns like trash inside.’

What a beautiful line. All of our fears, our insecurities ARE just that–trash we burn inside ourselves. Sometimes we stoke the fire ourselves even. And the product of cultivating fear in ourselves is a poisonous smoke we blow everywhere, causing others to turn their backs and walk away. Remember that fear is trash, and our job is to take out the trash, not burn it!