jeweled platypus


sunday, october 18, 2009
The munitions bunkers of MCAS Santa Barbara

If you drive into UCSB along Mesa Road and you keep your eyes open, you can see this in the dry Goleta Slough between campus and the airport:

a bunker

I didn’t notice those structures until a few weeks ago when I started looking into the history of the building that houses the College of Creative Studies. Our building is one of a few remaining ones on campus from 1942, when the area was a Marine Corps Air Station that trained pilots for World War II. I posted the details I found about our building on the CCS Literature Collaborative blog (with aerial photos!).

During that process, I read the UCSB Long Range Development Plan’s Sensitivity Study for Potential Historical Resources (PDF) and saw a listing for building 802, a “Storage Bunker” that served as a “military ammunitions bunker” for the former Marine base. This is also mentioned in the UCSB Long Range Development Plan’s document about Hazards and Hazardous Materials (PDF): “Ammunition was discovered in a bunker behind the police station in 1988.”

I like local history and ruins, especially military ruins (it’s hard to overstate how much Doug and I enjoyed visiting the forts of the Marin Headlands and Treasure Island), and I started thinking about how to find this strange remnant. A few days later I noticed the structures in the photo above, and then I saw another bunker while walking along Los Carneros Road. They’re pretty well hidden — you can barely see them in the background of this photo — but Doug and I went to find them. Here’s a map.

We parked in the small lot by the police/fire station, and I was a little worried that we would get in trouble for poking around, but none of these small roads/trails had “no trespassing” signs (except the fence marking where the airport begins). Nobody was around on a Saturday afternoon except a couple of firefighters washing a fire truck. And before we even walked all the way to the bunker, we saw this surprise:

a fragment? a fragment?

It’s a tall concrete sculpture, but I don’t know what it means or why it’s there. I don’t think it used to be part of any other structure; the base is angled in a way that would probably make it unsuitable as a load-bearing column. There’s a small black plaque on one side, but I can’t make out what it says except the name “Ciabatton” and maybe the date “1968”. A monument or memorial of some kind? It’s close to the bunker visible from the road:

a bunker

Then Doug and I walked toward this one, which we barely saw among the brush:

a nasty bunker

If you look through the heavy fencing, you can see the number 803 and a faded sign that says “CAUTION: HAZARDOUS CHEMICAL WASTE”. Wow!

Back toward the police/fire station, here’s the bunker (802) that Facilities Management uses for storage:

active bunker

There’s also a fourth bunker, but it’s on airport territory and not accessible.

I asked some of my UCSB friends whether they’d seen these bunkers, and most hadn’t heard of them — or had seen something while visiting the police station (to contest tickets, etc.) but hadn’t wanted to get in trouble by looking more closely. It makes sense that the university doesn’t publicize this utility area or make it very friendly, but I’m glad these structures are still accessible to people who are fascinated by the area’s life as a Marine base. There’s a nearby Air Heritage Museum open a few hours a week (for information, scroll down on this museum list), and someday Doug and I are going to wake up early enough to go there. I’d like to ask them about the weird and lovely concrete monument.

This type of camouflaged munitions storage bunker, distanced from other structures, is common on military bases. I think they’re all beautiful.

Update: As of January 2011, the publicly-accessible bunkers have been torn down, along with the concrete “monument” (which was actually probably just a materials test for building Storke Tower).

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sunday, june 28, 2009
Not quite a summer vacation

a street

Unlike the past three summers working in the Bay Area, I’m staying in Santa Barbara so I can take some more classes. I’ll probably graduate in Fall or Winter quarter.

Here is a chart of most of the classes I’ve taken so far, including my current ones:


The subjects are color-coded; a grey box means a half-credit class (or equivalent) and a black box means a full-credit class. See the 2007 chart for more explanation.

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monday, october 08, 2007
My classes for Fall 2007

fruit, flowers, leaves, and paper

In my Flowers art/biology class, I’m drawing and painting the Brazilian Pepper Tree. This will be my part of our illustrated guide to the campus flora.

My other three classes are literature classes:

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thursday, april 26, 2007
Writing about school instead of doing homework, again

a real classroom

Today I had a striking thought that I realized is common knowledge: a class is not a way for me to completely absorb a subject, but a way for me to develop a grasp of it that I can use to learn more and to create things. So initially I’m interested enough to take the class, and my interest deepens as I learn more about the subject, and then I go find ways to learn more (including taking other classes). The element that redeems intellectual entertainment like this is that I’m supposed to use my growing knowledge to create original work.

This is what the creative part of College of Creative Studies means; it’s a mediocre name because “creative” makes people think “fluffy artsy college” instead of “what your tedious college dreams of being”. Why create original work, anyway? The college seems to imply that you do this to get into graduate school and help other people further their own self-justifying spirals of intellectual development. People reviewing my college once recommended adding a goal to the mission statement like “To encourage students to use their original work for the betterment of humanity”, but the administrators ignored it. They trust that they don’t have to tell us to be good people.

My most successful classes so far have been ones in which I:

  1. Completed the class with full credit or a good grade (equivalent measures that depend on the college in which I took the class)
  2. Deepened my interest in the subject and learned more about it for fun
  3. Created work that I’m proud of (we’ll save bettering humanity for later)

Most of my classes have had one or more of those elements, but not enough of them have had all three*. They’re equally important to me, so I need to focus most on whichever one I’ve been lacking, and that’s (1), which is closely related to (3). This is a fancy way of saying again that I need to work harder in my literature classes.

Right. I’m supposed be doing my homework for them right now — including creating a Second Life account. “Wtf?”, you might ask, and you would have a good question, but I think my virtual class session tomorrow morning will be amusing. Class without changing out of pajamas. I like that. Maybe I will blog about it. In pajamas.

* Successful classes: “Beginning letterpress printing”, “Evolutionary medicine”, “Language and linguistics”, “Writing for new media”, “Malaise, melancholy, and the production of art”, “Islam, Arabs, and Arab-American voice in American literature”, and maybe a few others.

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tuesday, april 24, 2007
I think I’m an intellectual lolcat

My “Culture of the Copy” English class intertwines with my “Borges and His Precursors” Literature class, and they’re both branches off the “New Media Reader” book I borrowed from a professor last quarter because her Writing class included some readings that I would have read just for fun (that is, the fun of tearing them apart). I like that many of these related seeds in my brain were planted and cultivated by my network, and that I use my brain to help make better.

This process of learning what I want to learn — synchronizing some of my formal and informal learning — is a little scary because I’m not sure whether I can absorb, process, and contain it all.

a 99 cent store barbie next to the back of a book with salman rushdie

In my creative-writing Literature class, we’re reading and imitating New Yorker profiles. One of the things I’m writing is a short history of my college, which is hard because I took the class on that subject last quarter and my memory of it is already fading (I also took a class about memory that quarter). The other piece I’m working on is about my college’s Computer Science lab, which is much easier and more fun. The professor assigned the subject to me because she knows I spend time there; I like that I may be the only person who both does that and wants to write about it.

I should write about too, especially during this summer, but that’s difficult in the way that writing about relationships is difficult: I couldn’t publish any of it because the people involved could tell me I’d written their secrets down wrong (also, the nitpicky details of non-disclosure agreements and future potential boyfriends shunning me). One solution is to write something now, wait until the people involved don’t care anymore, and then publish whatever it is. But I tried writing like that once, and after a few months I read it again and didn’t care either.

Bookmarking links is usually a way for me to learn things, but writing posts is almost always a way for me to put off doing my homework.

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I’m Britta Gustafson.

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