. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Two Worthwhile Books and an Honorable Mention

I recently bought two books from Amazon.com that grabbed my attention because of their titles. I originally was searching for books to read with a child about Asperger's Syndrome, which is most related to the diagnosis of PDD-NOS that my son has. Both conditions are on the Autistic Spectrum, but people with them function at a higher level than those with classical Autism.

The two books I bought that I mentioned above are called, "All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome" and "All Dogs Have ADHD" and are both written by Kathy Hoopmann. (Coincidentally, the two books are listed with a book that my sister loaned me called, "Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's" by John Elder Robison in the Frequently Bought Together section on Amazon's page.) 

Both the "Cats" and the "Dogs" books are in an easy-to-read picture book form that would be great to display on your coffee table or in a waiting room somewhere. There are colorful photos of cats or dogs on each page in various situations and poses that depict the Asperger's or ADHD traits. Without spoiling the whole book (which I couldn't anyway because the photos are what makes the books), here are some direct quotes:

From "Cats":
  • An Asperger child looks at the world in his own unique way.
  • An Asperger child often has exceptionally good hearing, and loud sounds and sudden movements may scare him.
  • His other senses can be heightened too, such as touch and smell.
  • He's often fussy about what he eats and wants the same food presented in the same way, day after day.
  • Other kids make friends but don't invite him to play, and he may be bullied.
  • He may become a loner caught up in a world of his own, where small things fascinate him for hours and he can do the same thing over and over again without getting bored.
  • When he talks, he goes on and on about the same topic and bores everyone silly.
  • Daily rituals comfort him and he likes a good routine and gets worried if the schedule is changed.
  • He is honest, which is great of course, but sometimes he's too honest. Yet when he tries to tell a lie, he's not very good at it.
  • As he grows older he senses that he is different from everyone else and feels as if he belongs on a different planet, like an outsider looking into a world he never truly understands.
From "Dogs":
  • He knows what he wants and he wants it NOW.
  • When opportunity presents itself, he goes for it, and may dive straight into a situation without thinking of the consequences.
  • He is easily disorientated, he's always losing things, and often can't find what is right in front of his nose.
  • An ADHD child can be distracted by things other people don't notice, and his priorities may differ from those around him.
  • His senses can go into overload with everything going on, so he goes from one task to the next without finishing anything.
  • Books can be hard to understand, and things learnt are tricky to remember.
  • He doesn't know where to start, and even if there are instructions, he may not know how to follow them.
  • People keep saying "You can do better if you try harder," but it's simply not true.
  • Being very sensitive, he gets sad because he wants to be like everyone else, but he just can't.
Both books have the statement, "When things get too much for him, he may tantrum." Also, both books state: "Sometimes others think they can bring him up better than his parents can." And both books do finish off with the last half of the book dedicated to positive statements like getting support from those he loves, persistence and perseverance skills, and growing up to be successful adults like Henry Ford and Einstein.

So in a roundabout way, I did find some books to share with a child about Asperger's and think this picture book format might make it less intimidating than a chapter book. They are really funny when you see a cat or a dog photo with each statement like the photo of a cat batting a string for the "can do the same thing over and over and over again" statement. In the ADHD book, there is a photo of a white dog literally dragging his master along the ground as he pulls the leash with the "when opportunity presents itself, he goes for it" comment.

"Look Me in the Eye" is third on my reading list, after the audiobook I'm currently listening to and it's sequel in book form.


Monday, December 29, 2008


Last summer an old college friend took a detour to our home while on a summer trip from her home out to California. She and her kids introduced my oldest son to geocaching, which according to the geocaching.com website is: 
a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
All you need is a portable GPS device like the one Santa brought my son, an account on geocaching.com so that you can get the coordinates (and sometimes hints) for the caches, and the desire to get out and hike on a beautiful sunny day (sometimes going in circles). My son provided the first two items and we both love hiking on beautiful sunny days, so off we went with my dog, Lucy. Of course, we did cheat a little bit today by driving from one mesa to another one to find some different caches.

We had 6 geocaches programmed into the GPS device from the 943 listed within a 50 mile radius of our home coordinates. Anyway, we found the first "microcache" fairly easily--a tiny metallic capsule attached to a pole and we documented the visit. The second location was found after an easy mile walk along the mesa top but we couldn't find the actual cache and decided that it must be buried in the 2 feet of snow. Same happened with the third cache when we went to its coordinates. For the fourth and fifth caches, we would have had to walk down steep, snow-covered terrain to find them, and we couldn't even find the trailheads because of the snow. So we skipped those for today. But for the sixth geocache, we had a good time. We parked on the side of the road once we got in the vicinity and hiked to the location indicated by the GPS. Using the clues that were left on the website for the treasure, we hunted all over until we found it, and recorded the visit. Very creative! The cache was hidden inside a log.

Besides finding geocaches, you can hide them as well. I want to do this for my son once he teaches me how to use his GPS device to mark coordinates. Once you hide a cache, you can log the location on the website for others to find it as well. But if you hide one, you have to care for it, making sure it is in good shape for everyone.

We told each other that we'd go back to the missed locations when the snow melted in the spring. I know we'll do more exploring before then, though!


Thursday, December 18, 2008


If I liked being out in the cold weather, I think I'd take up snowshoeing. But I'll be saving money because I would rather stay at home and walk on my treadmill than to walk out in the snow and freezing winter. Thursdays is our PE day and today I got to join the class in snowshoeing around the school.  

There are some really innovative ideas that float around the school where I work and when the PE teacher told everyone she was writing a grant so that she could get snowshoes for the kids for PE class, people thought she was a little crazy. But she wrote the grant and has received
enough snowshoes for her classes, various sizes and the top of the line. They come in a variety of colors, but the pink camoflage Yukon Charlie's snowshoe for the girls were really quite cute. They go for about $60 a pair at REI!

I am glad that I had my snow boots today so that I could get out there with my student when she tried it as well (I bring snow boots for that dreaded lunch duty time that I have to walk around the playground out in the, yes, winter weather).  Well, snowshoeing out in the field was pretty fun and I could see how a person could get a good workout from it.  I didn't today, though, because I was going at a very slow pace to keep with my student.

Our PE teacher also has other great ideas for fitness.  She's gotten two Dance Dance Revolution sets for the kids also, which they love.  She has them bowling and even juggling (both of which leave me winded when we do them--all that bending over to set up pins or pick up dropped balls, respectively).  Then of course, there are various ball games that she knows and that the kids enjoy. I wish I'd had a cool PE teacher when I was young!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Day

We got a foot or so of snow last night and so I woke up to the announcement that school, therefore work, was cancelled. They also shut down the Lab, which is the main employer of the town, so as far as I know everyone is home today. The snow plow just arrived to plow our street and it is a bit after noon. That means that he'll probably plow a load of snow at the end of my driveway. Eesh.

Though I'm not a huge fan of the winter season, it was nice to have so much pretty snow outside (and me all warm and toasty inside). When I went outside and started to shovel snow, a very kind neighbor came over with his snow blower and removed all the snow from around my truck in the driveway and cleared a nice path on both sides and to the front door. I want to get a goodie package together and will send it over to thank him.  

Even though I didn't do a lot of snow shoveling, I rewarded my efforts with a hot cup of chocolate! Lucy enjoyed running through the snow as you can see from the blurry photo on the right.

The winter storm warning is in effect until 5 am tomorrow. It is supposed to continue to snow until Thursday afternoon, but I doubt if another snow day will be called tomorrow. Maybe we'd be lucky to have a 2-hour delay.  

In any case, I'm going to stay inside as much as possible and will stay warm and toasty.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in the Kitchen

This weekend I spent a lot of time in the kitchen doing my holiday baking and making candies. While I worked I listened to Christmas music to really get me in the mood. I made something for everyone: fudge, Rice Krispies Treats (red and green), shortbread, applesauce cake, and a double batch of our favorite family Christmas candy. I also did make a recipe of "Loving Cups," which came from my sister. Too bad they didn't turn out very "loving" since they stuck to the mini muffin pans.  You have to use a knife to scrape out the cookie.

While making fudge I noticed that I'm a counter-clockwise stirrer.  Five minutes of stirring tends to make my mind wander and think of ridiculous things.

The fudge and Rice Krispies Treats recipes were right off of the packages of marshmallow creme ("Fantasy Fudge") and the Rice Krispies cereal box, respectively. The shortbread is a recipe of mine that I've made every year from the Good Housekeeping cookbook. The applesauce cake recipe came from my aunt and is in the family cookbook that my mom made for a family reunion many years ago. I didn't add the raisins, though, and left half the batch without nuts as well. The favorite Christmas candy recipe came from my mom via a woman that my dad worked for when Mom and Dad were dating.  Mom would make it every year but when I moved away I started making it myself.

One more week of school to go before the two-week winter break. I plan to visit my sister for a few days but after Christmas I want to clear out my pantry, clean the shelves, and paint them. I also need to do some touch-up painting around the house where dings have chipped off the paint. Not too exciting, but something that needs to be done.

Have a good week!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Couple of News Links on Autism

I was told of an article in the USA Today about a new study about the autistic brain.  Although I did not read the USA Today article before it was thrown in the recycle bin and was recycled, I was able to find an article by Googling the subject matter.  I found that the study was presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America and indicates that it may be possible to accurately identify autistic children at a very early age by measuring brain wave patterns to determine if a child has a significant lag in auditory processing. The MSNBC article, Brain Waves Show Autism Language Problems states:

Unique brain wave patterns, spotted for the first time in autistic children, may help explain why they have so much trouble communicating.

Using an imaging helmet that resembles a big salon hair dryer, researchers discovered what they believe are "signatures of autism" that show a delay in processing individual sounds.

That delay is only a fraction of a second, but when it's for every sound, the lag time can cascade into a major obstacle in speaking and understanding people, the researchers said.Imagine if it took a tiny bit longer than normal to understand each syllable. By the end of a whole sentence, you'd be pretty confused.

The study authors believe that's what happens with autistic children, based on the brain wave patterns detected in school-age children in their study.....

.....In autistic children, response to each sound was delayed by one-fiftieth of a second.

"We tend to speak at four syllables per second," said Timothy Roberts, the study's lead author and the hospital's vice chairman of research.  If an autistic brain "is slow in processing a change in a syllable...it could easily get to the point of being overloaded."...

.....Roberts, the study author, said the findings fit with a leading theory that suggests autism is "a disorder of connectivity in the brain."

And here is something that blew my mind when I read it:  Associated Content Article, Man Murders Autistic Teen Son.

Allen Grabe shot his autistic teen son, 13-year-old Jacob, September 11. Jacob has autism, though at least one report said he had Asperger's syndrome. Grabe killed his autistic son with a pistol inside their home in Colorado. Allen Grabe is being held on $1 million bond at Mesa County Jail on "suspicion" of first-degree murder. Suspicion? You mean a leprechaun might have pulled the trigger? Authorities offer no motive as to why Allen Grabe would kill his autistic son.Denver Post readers have offered their theories: Raising an autistic child could be very stressful.
Well, that theory is bull because it implies that raising an autistic child could turn a normal father into a murderer. It implies that Allen Grabe was otherwise normal. It suggests that Allen Grabe would have been a normal father had his son not been autistic. It also implies that Jacob's autism was severe, versus mild, even though he attended a regular school and routinely played with a 14-year-old neighbor. It implies that Jacob Grabe's autism was an alarming impediment, even though the mother of the 14-year-old described Jacob as "a very, very smart boy," and another neighbor described him as being friendly and polite.
Yes, a smart, polite autistic boy could also have meltdowns, but this does not excuse the father for killing him, and it should not even be implied that "stress" from raising an autistic child could lead a parent to murder. How about the theory that Allen Grabe was just plain evil? After all, Jacob, though with autism, sounds like he was a pretty cool kid: another neighbor, who wished to remain unnamed, said Jacob raised money for school by selling cookie dough, candy and other things in the neighborhood. Plus, Jacob ran track. Sounds like a high-functioning autistic child to me. This neighbor is quoted: "He was a great kid."
The article continues and discusses what should happen to Grabe.  I agree with the author when he says, "lock the evil man up in prison for life."


Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Tis the Season!

One thing I love about this time of year is getting out all of the boxes of Christmas decorations and decorating the house, inside and out. Each decoration has some kind of memory associated with it and each item has a special place. I do admit, I always seem to pick up a new ornament or a new decoration each year and so that adds to the collection. I can justify it since each year I find something broken. I'm still finding places to put things, although it is almost to the point where I might have to start choosing what to display!

This decorating process takes a whole weekend and many people involved. There's a color scheme with the house: blue and white. These are also the colors of the lights that we put on the tree with the exception of the multi-colored star topper that we've had for 16 years. 

Today was the special day that we got our tree and we always go to the same place in town: Delancey Street trees. I think we found today's tree in less than 10 minutes. This is amazing considering how long it used to take the family to find a tree back when we lived in California. My sister and I would always argue over which tree was better--the wider one or the taller one. Delancey Street always brings the prettiest trees from a farm up in Oregon somewhere. I also like that when we buy a tree from them, it is going to a wonderful cause. The foundation helps ex-substance abusers and ex-convicts  to turn their lives around and to become productive citizens. 

We started off the weekend with a wonderful Christmas party on Friday night that had such delicious food. There was ham, turkey pot pie, potato salad, and green salad. For dessert there were many fruit pies, a lemon cake, a Craisin cake, and a Death by Chocolate cake. The whiskey punch was especially good.

So now the holiday season has officially begun (or did it start with Thanksgiving?). I hope you have as much fun decorating and celebrating as I've had so far and plan to have in the weeks to come.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Catching Up With My Reading

One thing that is nice about driving all day to a destination is being able to catch up on some reading. It is about a 6 hour drive from here to my sister's house where we spent the Thanksgiving holiday. During the drive up I was able to finish reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer, which is a book that she wrote for adults.  Not for teenagers like her Twilight series.  It was getting dark during the last two chapters and so I read with the interior car light on even though I know that is not a good idea.  The book was really good so I just had to finish it.

Then, on the way back home I was able to finish reading Way Off the Road by Bill Geist.  It is a collection of stories about small-town America. One of the funniest was called "Mike the Headless Chicken".  I'm glad my dad sent me the book to read.

Also on the way home I was able to start a new book called Rebuilt: My Journey Back to the Hearing World by Michael Chorost.  It is about a man that completely loses his hearing as an adult (after being hearing-impaired all his life) and undergoes a cochlear implant.  My sister recommended this book and so far it is very captivating.

So in between all of the other things I do during my days, I will keep on reading. It is what I like to do in my "down time" right before bed at night. My problem is, my To Be Read pile is getting larger even though I'm still reading eight different books at one time.  They're all so wonderful!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I had problems falling asleep last night and laid awake for a while just thinking. Since I had just watched the next-to-the-last episode of True Blood that was Tivo-ed, vampires were on my mind. I got to thinking about the similarities between True Blood the HBO series and Twilight the books.  

A few similarities came to mind and made me wonder which came first: the novels that True Blood was based on, The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris or the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. Of course, I haven't read the eight books that have been written so far that True Blood is based on, but I have read the Twilight series. Since I was in bed and didn't want to get up to research at 11:00 at night, I just pondered for a while.

So lets talk about the similarities and then I'll share what I found out when researching:
  1. The main character, a female human, falls in love with a male vampire (Sookie—Bill vs Bella—Edward)
  2. Shape shifters make themselves known (Sam, a dog most of the time vs Jacob, a wolf) and occur because of genetics
  3. Murders are occurring all over a small town (Bon Temps, LA vs Forks, WA)
  4. There are good vampires who don't attack humans and bad vampires that do in both stories
  5. Mind-reading abilities (Sookie vs Edward)
Book 1 of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Dead Until Dark was published in May 2001.  Book 1 of the Twilight Saga, Twilight was published in October 2005.  So this answers the "which came first..." question. What I wonder is if Stephenie Meyer read The Southern Vampire series before writing Twilight. The Southern Vampire series is still being written and book 9 will be coming out in May 2009. But the Twilight series is completed.

No matter what, I really enjoyed Twilight and am enjoying True Blood. The Southern Vampire Mysteries are on my wish list for "books I want to read."

Monday, November 24, 2008

What is "Emo"?

The term "emo" is out there in the music world, the news, and comes up every now and then in conversations and in the school environment.  I was wondering what it really meant and someone had the great idea to Google it. So I did. Amazing what comes up!

According to Emo Corner, when you are referring to someone as "emo", you are stating that they are sensitive, or that they have an emotional personality. Attached to the personality trait is the music, and in some cases, hair and fashion. Emo music is tied very closely back to the punk music of the 1980's where lyrics are direct descriptions of feelings, without metaphors, and the melodies are hard, but simple. Popular emo bands today were influenced by such 80's bands like The Cure (one of my old favorites) and include Suicidal Tendencies and Evanescence. (I've heard from and liked some songs by these bands :-))

Wikipedia writes, "In recent years the popular media has associated emo with a stereotype that includes being emotional, sensitive, shy, or angsty. It is also associated with depression, self-injury, and suicide." That is the scary part of emo.

Hair is dyed black and is spiky and cut chunkily. Makeup is heavy for both boys and girls. Clothes are dark and tight. 

Besides emo fashion and hair, there is also emo poetry. Emo poetry is very harsh, direct, and full of stress and emotion. The main goal of emo poetry is to give the writer an outlet for these tormenting feelings. The poetry is often about suicidal thoughts, painful topics, and anger, and is considered art. Some poetry is not about suicide. Here is one from the Emo Corner website:
Autumn Times
Autumn breeze frigidly touches ailing dreadful lives
Harshly darkness quietly surrounds the broken souls
Mellow serenades that once played between hearts
Pathetically have transformed into bitter sad songs

Somewhere beyond the flossy clouds
Cupid has lost his romancing arrows
Plays sad sonorous tunes on his bow
Dedicated to all weepy lonely hearts

Howling chilly wind blows through the mist
Sounds of sorrow spread allover the place
Fuzzy humid air submerges the inner lust
Lives decay slowly as the autumn leaves fall...
So now I think I understand the emo movement better after spending some time exploring the Google hits that came up. It isn't as scary as some people say it is. I can definitely think of some teens that are very emo-ish, even if they don't dress or style themselves that way (yet).

The decade and the name may have changed, but teen angst and pain is universal.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Enjoyable Hours

I went to see a movie yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually went all by myself since nobody I knew was into the Twilight Saga books by Stephenie Meyer (besides some 6th grade girls at the school I work at). The theater was not only filled with teenage girls like I expected, but also had pre-teen girls and boys plus adult women and men there.  I had the popcorn and soda all to myself.

There was a new trailer for the Harry Potter 6 movie, The Half Blood Prince that looked really good.  Too bad that it doesn't open until next July.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Threatening Obama

Sometimes human beings absolutely disgust me. I couldn't believe it when I heard that there is a convenience store in Maine that has a betting pool over when an assassination attempt will be made on President-elect Obama. Sure, it probably started off as a joke, but has gotten way out of hand. For $1, a person can be part of this Osama Obama Shotgun Pool. The person who picks the date closest to when an attempt on Obama's life is made will get all the money. To make this even more disgusting, there was a sign posted that says, "Let's hope we have a winner." Can you believe that? These people actually want Obama's life threatened? I am sure that the pool has been shut down by now.

Apparently, this incident isn't unjustified. According to the article I read, Obama has had more death threats than any other president-elect. White supremacists have multiplied. Obama has become a target and I worry for his and his family's safety.

Let's not let these people ruin what might be the best political event of our lifetime!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mystery Solved....Or Is It?

Once upon a time sand was deposited on the shore of a warm inland sea. This sand was rich in iron so was a lovely shade of red. As the sea receded, the sand dried out and hardened. Eventually, the sand turned into red sandstone.  

Over time, water returned to the area and carved its way through the rocky area. The red sandstone was exposed for a long while as the water lapped around it. 

As the temperature changed, the water began to evaporate and become more concentrated. As this happened, the water began to bleach out the stone in areas where small cracks wound through it, causing light colored stripes throughout the red.  

The sandstone spent many centuries exposed to the elements, weathering time.  

Eventually, the rock broke apart and tumbled to the ground, pieces landing in a talus pile below.  

The broken chunk of rock, with its intricate striping design, laid within the pile of rubble until a human came by and took it home to be in their rock collection.

That is one possibility, anyway!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Geology Meme

From Reporting on a Revolution Blog:  The Geology Haiku Meme

Suvratk's is:

deep in a bioreef
a Permian story
calcite dripstones tell

Rules: Three lines and a max of seventeen syllables. Use of kigo, which is the traditional reference to a season, may be substituted by a reference to a geological period. The use of kireji, which is a word that serves to give structural support to the verse is not widely practiced in English haiku, so you may give that a pass.

Here's Mine:

Welded tuff
Bands of pink and tan rock
Ash compacted from volcano


The Mystery of the Rock is Still a Mystery

As you have seen, I've had photos of a special rock that used to be my grandmother's embedded here on my blog. There is a description of the rock and a bit of the story behind it written below.  

This is a special rock that once belonged to my grandmother.  She lived most of her life in Oregon and northern California... The grains are silt-to sand-sized and in two colors.  Both the lighter "matrix" color has the same size grains as the dark.  Is it volcanic?  Is it sedimentary?
I posted on a couple of geology blogs in hopes that someone had seen a similar sample somewhere, and although I've gotten some great ideas, the mystery of the rock is still a mystery.  My sister even asked a blogger friend if he knew about such a rock.  There are three viable ideas floating around (the infilling of mud cracks idea was shot down quickly because of the rounded corners of the red--dessication cracks are a brittle process that causes sharp edges).  My favorite idea is the first one bulleted below:

  • In-situ leaching along microfractures in a fine-grained rock causing the red iron minerals to get flushed out and leaving the light matrix.  The rock type could be either a sandstone or fine-grained volcanic.
  • An igneous rock that has been hydrothermally changed along a zone of alteration (which could also be related to the idea above since it has to do with water moving through the rock or sediment).
  • A conglomerate that formed when broken up red sandstone was quickly deposited into a fine-grained, lighter color sand, then compacted and hardened.
These are great ideas, but WHERE would such a rock have been formed?  

Many people did like to call the rock "fossilized giraffe skin".  One thing for certain, I saw nothing like my rock when Googling images of rocks with the descriptions bulleted above.  

A few people encouraged me to take my rock sample to a university and ask professors there about it.  That is a good idea, but I don't have a university nearby with a geology department. Next time I am in Albuquerque on a weekday I can try to find the Geology Museum there on campus!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I've learned a lot from the art teacher at the elementary school that I work for (Previous Post). Recently, I've learned that impressionists paint light and that cubists paint what they know. Now, he is teaching us (the 6th grade class and me) that surrealists paint what they imagine.  The prefix, "sur", means to be above, so surrealism is "above reality".  

He began the lesson by saying that we experience life through the senses. Reality is what we experience through sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. But how do you know that something is absolutely for certain real? How do you know you aren't dreaming? Senses can be deceived. If you close one eye and point your finger at an object across the room, and then open your eye, the object moves. Sight has deceived you.  It is not "real".

Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am."  I exist because I can do the thinking and ask the questions.  I exist because I can use my energy to create something, like art.  And Freud's work with dream analysis and the hidden unconscious led surrealist artists to revolutionize the art of the time by painting from their imaginations instead of just what they saw or knew.

So what if you rose above reality and created art through your imagination or dreams? You'd have shapes shifting from something that is real into another form that is surreal.

One great surrealist painter is Salvador Dali, who painted this well-known piece of art called "The Persistence of Memory." Of course, I didn't know what the title of the painting was, nor who painted it until my art teacher taught me, but I did know of the painting.

One of our art teacher's favorite sayings is, "Talking about art is like dancing about architecture." He told us that he had talked long enough and now it was time for everyone to "DO IT."  Create our own surrealist art.  And not just "produce" art because any animal can produce art (such as Bill the Chimp, RIP).  But humans can "create" art and when we use our imaginations, pretty awesome works occur.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Feelin' Groovy!

This is how I've been feeling all day--just grinnin' and feelin' groovy!


This morning when I was driving to Starbucks to meet my friends for our weekly Wednesday coffee and chat session, I thought of the election results and tears came to my eyes.  I'm such a doofus, but it is still such a moving experience for me.  Last night's results and Obama's speech were so touching and I feel so uplifted to know that we will start fresh as a country and there is hope to improve and be strong again.  

"We all made this journey for a reason...you came here because you believe in what this country can be.  In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope.  In the face of politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union." -- President-elect Barack Obama on February 10, 2007 at the beginning of the campaign.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Fixing Autistics?

When getting caught up with some blogs that I follow I found this heart-wrenching video posted on the blog, Autism Square 8.  It really resonated with me but I don't have the words to talk about it just yet.  Watch it for yourself and see why.

From her blog, she writes:  I am no longer scouring the internet looking for a "cure" or even a "cause" but rather spend my time helping him find out who he is and how to give him that one thing that everyone in this world needs...Passion. Don't get me wrong here, I still try every day to help him learn and grow, just like any other parent helps their child. The difference is that I no longer feel the need to "fix" him. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hikes are Therapy

I got to spend a couple of hours outdoors on a hike today.  I always seem to forget that one way to release stress is to get out and go on a hike.  I tend to just sit and suffer until I feel better.  I take the hard way instead of doing something easy--taking a hike!

So today I tagged along with a group from my church (Unitarian Universalist) of middle school kids and a couple of their advisors. We set out to explore the Quemazon Trail and find the Cave of the Winds.  I've never been on this trail so was excited about setting out somewhere new.  We parked at the little lot at the trailhead, walked along the trail, then turned left at the water tank to go up the hill.  Some of the trail had us walking in ponderosa pines that had survived the fire but most of the trail was in the burn area. The view from different points along the way were beautiful.  This photo on the above right is of our Omega Bridge, which connects our townsite to the Laboratory that is the major employer of our town.  You can see the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance.  Santa Fe is below the mountains in the valley toward the right.

I found out that the Quemazon Trail used to be a main route from the Pajarito Plateau to the Valle Caldera and there were wagon ruts carved into the soft volcanic rock along the trail that we walked on.  I could imagine the early homesteaders taking this route in their wagons and how difficult it must have been to go up and down the slope.  I wonder how many days it took.

At the top of the first hill, we walked into the recovery area, and it was an area of such contrasts.  There were broken off trees next to new ponderosa pines that were planted as seedlings the first years after the fire.  I know a lot 
of those seedlings didn't make it, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were quite a few around that looked healthy (reports say that 45% of seedlings have survived).  There were grasses everywhere also, which were green a few months ago, but now are brown.  Some purple asters and a few little berry bushes were also dotted around the area.

We found a trail marker off to the left of the trail that marked the way to the Cave of the Winds.  Without that trail marker and someone who had been on the trail before, we would not have made the left turn!  We walked a little way toward the canyon and at the edge, we headed down. The opening to the cave was about 50 feet down the hill and my knee felt every foot of it (damn patellar tendonitis!).  

One by one, we went into the small opening and I was surprised that the cave opened up to a large space that was the size of my living room, maybe even bigger (left photo).  There was an extra "room" off the back side of the cave that we discovered and once we got into that area, we turned off all our flashlights.  It was completely dark!  Flashlights did pop back on pretty quickly :-)).

After exploring the cave, we climbed out to sit on the rocks and 
have some water and snacks.  I was surprised again when looking across the canyon to the other side.  The other side of the canyon was devastated by the fire while the hill that we were sitting on still had tall ponderosa pines scattered all over it.
I thought that this is what was meant when the news reporters said that the fire had "jumped the canyon" and was headed toward town.  The fire just jumped over the slope we were on and burned the top of the hill.

The walk back didn't feel like it took as long as the walk up.  I think it was a total of about 2 miles and just the right length for someone who hasn't hiked in a while.  The weather was beautiful, the company was pleasant, and the kids didn't complain at all.  It was a fun expedition and I can't wait until the next time I can go out hiking.


Do Geologists Need Math?

I just had to laugh at this Calvin and Hobbes comic strip when I saw it in the book, Structural Geology (by Pollard & Fletcher), and wanted to share it here.
Number 1:  I sure didn't use all that much math when I was working as a geologist, just water well or sample depth calculations.

Number 2:  What do you mean "Geologist" isn't really a job!!!


Vampires Went Out At Night

We had fun at a party last night and were the only vampires there. Most everyone else picked a decade and dressed as they used to dress back then.  There was a couple dressed from the 50's as a T-Bird and a Pink Lady from Grease.  We had hippies and disco dancers from the 60's and 70's, plus someone dressed as Ace Frehley from the band Kiss.  And a couple dressed in 80's Madonna-like clothes (woman) and 501 jeans/Izod shirt/Members Only jacket (man). From the 90's you could put the couple dressed as Homer and Marge Simpson from the t.v. show since it was most popular then.  From today's time we had a woman dressed as Sarah Palin (accompanied by her husband who dressed as Sarah's mother--unsure of the reasoning behind that).  And, we also had a couple dressed as Genevieve and Sir Lancelot (or he might have been King Arthur) from the Camelot era.  I think the only couple that didn't fit in with the "decade" theme was the pig and farmer.  Oh, and Captain Morgan, too.  Anyway, I hope your Halloween festivities were as fun as ours!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

A clown, a cat, and a barfing pumpkin!

I think I'm all partied out! This morning started with a 2nd grade Halloween Extravaganza performance followed by a party. Then after lunch I had to hit all of the 5th and 6th grade classrooms to see everyone's costumes. Of course, I had to sample the treats that were brought: caramel apples, cupcakes, pizza, donuts, and Pop Rocks.  I did pass up the pickles and flan.  Anyway, it was a great Halloween day around the school and the kids were in great spirits (and some were literal spirits!).  

Tonight I hope to watch the Halloween classic:  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown after all the trick-or-treaters come to the house.  Hope your Halloween is spooky and scary and that you have leftover candy to enjoy!

11/1/08 Edit:  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is always enjoyable even after all these years.  I just love Snoopy and the way Linus is oblivious to Sally's admiration always gives me a chuckle.  A true classic!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Get Out the Vote"

I read this extremely touching post in a friend's Journal today.  She writes about volunteering with Obama's campaign and her first time canvassing the neighborhood and talking to people about voting.  She had a list in hand and a serious duty to perform.  I admire her for it since I know I could never get out and do some "door knocking" to talk politics with voters, even if they were Obama supporters.  

She included a story that made me think about how ground-breaking this vote will be.  In the primaries, we had our first African-American and our first woman running for president.  For me and my generation, this is nothing really to think over.  It seems natural for us who have grown up in a world mixed all up and with opportunities offered for everyone regardless of sex or color.

But for our older generations, this is still a problem in some cases.  Some people refuse to vote for a person of color or for the "lesser sex".  In the journal article, my friend writes that she encountered a man who told her, “I’ll be voting for McCain,” he said, “and my wife won’t be voting.”  Can you imagine that?  It breaks my heart.  She follows the story with another one of a woman from the older generation who gives hope to the campaign:

Hillary Clinton was her first choice so she did not mind telling you that she had her doubts about the new fellow. Funny name Barack Obama …who names a child something like that? She was disappointed when he won. Like many women of a certain age, she was thrilled by the notion of seeing a female elected president in her lifetime. Hillary’s defeat hurt her heart, but Libba was not one to hold a grudge and then her children thought the world of the fellow and that meant something. She decided she would hear him out.

When the Democratic Convention aired on television she sat up in her bed and watched night after night. What she saw moved her in ways she had not anticipated. It was quite a sight … 100,000 Americans of every age race and creed gathered together for that great crazy spectacle of American democracy. Libba had seen her share of history in the making but this felt personal. This was the America she had always believed in and had worked so hard to bring about.

Michelle Obama was as smart as she was lovely and the little girls adorable and perfectly mannered. This spoke well for Obama, must be a feminist to have a family like that. The speeches were all great and the moment that Hillary handed over her delegates was so thrilling that Libba forgot to be sad about it. Joe Biden is everything she loves about a Democrat, scrappy and earnest and a little bit unpredictable, not a lock-stepper … “good choice” she thought. Then, the new fellow Obama appeared at last before a hushed audience under the dark Denver sky. . She studied the crowd which was pin-drop quiet as he spoke of the challenges we face. She felt for the broad shouldered black men, whose eyes were wet with pride and smiled at the little old white ladies, their hands folded as if in prayer. She worried for the young people with the tattoos and the piercings, so hard looking until you peered into their wide innocent eyes.

Mr. Obama’s words fell around them as thoughtful as they were heated as grounded as they were inspiring … he seemed honest, a rare thing in a politician, but there was something more … something she could not put her finger on. Then it hit her and she filled with feeling. “He is the future plain and simple” she thought and Libba understood that she would soon be the past. She would not live to see the first African American sworn into office, but he would win and by God she would have her say in the matter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

WebExhibits Presents Daylight Savings Time Nodes

I found this really cool web site called "WebExhibits" about Daylight Savings when I was looking at a Geology News blog.

Did you know one reason for extending Daylight Savings to the 1st of November was because of Trick-or-Treating children?

Safer trick-or-treaters
Through 2006, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. ended a few days before Halloween -- October 31. Children's pedestrian deaths are four times higher on Halloween than on any other night of the year. A new law to extend DST to the first Sunday in November took effect in 2007, with the purpose of providing trick-or-treaters more light and therefore more safety from traffic accidents. For decades, candy manufacturers lobbied for a Daylight Saving Time extension to Halloween, as many of the young trick-or-treaters gathering candy are not allowed out after dark, and thus an added hour of light means a big holiday treat for the candy industry. Anecdotally, the 2007 switch may not have had much effect, as it appeared that children simply waited until dark to go trick-or-treating. 
The web site has a lot of really neat tidbits about calendars, poetry, and art that they present in a "Node" format or as text.  They advertise themselves as "An Interactive Museum".  There is a link to older exhibits also.

Here's another interesting fact about DST:  Severity of auto accidentsThere is evidence that the severity of auto accidents increases as people adjust to the time change. 

"What is That Green Goop?!!!"

Well, it is a delicious creation made from an October 2000 Southern Living magazine recipe posted on myrecipes.com that was sent to me by my sister last week.  That "green goop" is called Cream of Cilantro Soup.  

My sister remembered that I had raved about a bowl of Cream of Cilantro Soup that I had over 14 years ago at a restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico.  When she saw the recipe on the website, she thought of me and sent it to me for me to try.

Now I'm not one to really go out of my way to make something new.  I tend to stick to my tried-and-true recipes and like the comfort of cooking what I already know how to cook. But this looked too good to pass up and so I wrote out the ingredients I'd need and went shopping.  (The last two times I tried something new was when I cooked my sister's "Black Bean Soup" and "Bleu Cheese Potato Salad" recipes--she's a good influence on me!).

I did do a couple of things differently when I made the soup yesterday:
  1. Made a double batch
  2. Used light cream cheese instead of fat-free cream cheese
  3. Forgot to save some sour cream and cilantro sprigs for garnishing
Now was the soup as good as the one from Cozumel?  No.  But it was really good in its own right.  Cozumel's soup had a more subtle flavor and was not spicy.  The Southern Living recipe had a robust flavor and a "kick" to it because of the bit of ground red pepper and cumin.  So if you don't like a touch of spice, leave those out.  I think that the Cozumel recipe probably used real cream instead of cream cheese since it did not have the flavor of cream cheese in the background like the SL recipe.  Probably because they weren't trying to make a healthy version for the tourists!

So if you like cilantro, this is a recipe to try.  And a double batch probably wasn't necessary.  It made more than it looked like it was going to make.  But it will get eaten!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Since it's Tuesday.....

My sister has this on her website, a link to Should be Reading's Teaser Tuesdays.  Here's the directions:

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

  • Here's mine......

    "Again we were not alone, and again I was miserably disappointed that this was the case.  Three men and one woman -- the salt-and-pepper braid -- were filling buckets with water from the smallest stream."

    This is from page 234 of Stephenie Meyer's adult novel, "The Host".  Not all that grabbing, mind you, but makes you wonder who the character is with.

    I've only gotten through the first 5 chapters since I started the book last night.  It has really been captivating and I can't wait to read more but I just get so tired at night that I can't keep my eyes open long enough to get really deep into it yet.  But I'm intrigued and look forward to reading more!