Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Casino Royale

After more than a quarter of a century Princess Leah of Star Wars has been supplanted by Vesper (Eva Green) in Casino Royale. Both are beautiful women who are super intelligent, but also sometimes seem just like the girl next door. And for sure sometimes a bit of a bitch. You could take either one home to meet Mama, or you could fall madly, passionately, head over heels in love with either.

No more wives for me. Its for sure this time. I am ruined for life. If I can’t have Vesper then I’ll just pass, thank you very much.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet you really should rent the DVD.

There are two great things about playing a DVD at home. Especially if you have a nice sized screen and good speakers: The volume button for the really exciting scenes, and the pause button when it has just gotten a bit TOO thrilling. Or when you need to go wash your hands.

I personally enjoyed pausing the scene in London looking across the Thames at Big Ben and the houses of parliament. Letting the memories play of all the times I have stood right there. And thinking, “Yes, and just to the right on the far side of the river is the Boudacea memorial. Buckingham palace is over there, and to the right on this side of the Thames is the London Eye
and the Shakespeare theatre.”

This movie really doesn’t disappoint. Daniel Craig as 007 deserves all the praise that he has received.

On my personal thriller, escapist movie rating scale of one-to-ten, this flick is up there in the high 12’s. Maybe even a 14.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lipizzaner Stallions

The Spanish riding school of Vienna and their Lipizzaners are really world famous in equestrian circles. The first time I saw them perform was in Brussels, Belgium.

These horses were originally used in battle, but in the era of cruise missiles and explosive roadside devices set off by cell phone they are no longer needed for warfare. Instead they perform beautiful horse ballet and demonstrate their atheltic skills.

They are putting on a show in El Paso, Texas this evening and I'm looking forward to seeing them.

For the first time in almost 20 years, a contract has been signed for the actual Spanish Riding School to come to the West coast of America in 2008 and do a few performances. Tentatively it looks like the nearest show will be in Phoenix. Tickets will be available 6 months in advance. I sure hope I manage to get a ticket!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Burial Ceremonies

My sister, brother-in-law, and I have all decided to go ahead and buy plots of land in the graveyard. We are all getting up in years, and I have leukemia. So its a good idea.
This morning a friend of mine sent me an e-mail joke about athiests. So now is as good a time as any to make it perfectly clear: At my burial do whatever you want, but please no religious bullshit. Nothing even remotely Christian. Please. No symbols, none of their words.
The following is some of my mutterings on organized religion.

I really am not an athiest. I absolutely do believe there is some higher power.
Its just all this organized religion shit like Christianiaty that I think is a complete bunch of hogwash. A virgin getting pregnant? Changing water to wine. A dead man rising from the dead after a few days and moving the rock covering his little cave? Ya, right. Total fucking bullshit.

You have to have loads of faith (ie, self delusion) to believe this crap.

When my favorite dog dies, or my Dad or my brother dies. Or when I wake up in the middle of the night camping out in the high desert 100 miles from any city and see the zillions of stars. Or when I look at the incredible selflessness that some people demonstrate in times of crisis...yes I am sure that God exists.

I was trained as an acolite. I wore the dress and served in the ceremony each Sunday. I actually had mysef believing those looney stories. I've been to church services in Bethlehem and in Westminster Cathedral in England. I've been to Jerusalem and swam in the river Jordan.

Now that I've seen some of the world I don't fall for that stuff anymore. Our tiny little weak human brains are no more capable of understanding or properly describing this incredible phenomenom of intelligence and love than an ant is of describing nuclear physics.

Its the young-boy-priest-ass-fucking-bullshit I don't fall for anymore. Of course priests are perverted and many are queers; they are not allowed to have sex with women. So they butt fuck each other. And their parishoners.

In the middle ages when most people couldn't read maybe society needed "holy persons" to interpret the sacred scriptures. But no thank you, I don't need their help. I am perfectly capable of reading and making my own decisions about these important matters.

Once you start getting a religion "organized" by having sacred writings, church owned properties, and paid staff the standard organizational self perpetuation moves kick in. You see the exact same BS with AARP, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club...the highest goal becomes keeping the organization going (and hopfully growing). More and more power, more staff, a bigger budget. All of this requres a legion of faithful who donate money to the church.

Its important that our form of religion is the only true one. So muslims or jews or even other varieties of christianity are fair game. In the final anaylsys it becomes OK to kill them. Shit. Killing in the name of God. What an anomaly.

And so many religions (and their associated power trips) have been used to have the faithful wage bloody wars against each other. Look at Israel, Northern Ireland. etc. But you don't see the fucking holy men dying in battle, just their lowly faithful.

No thank you. I'll stick to my own personal beliefs. And when I die I don't want any of this religious symbolism at my funeral.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thistle & Shamrock

NPR has a really great program that I have listened to a few times.


It is called Thistle and Shamrock. They play really good music from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. It was on yesterday evening. I could listen to that kind of music all the time.



Radium Springs New Mexico

The period from 1850 until the early 1900’s was a very rich one for the desert southwest.

Soon after gold was discovered in California in 1849 a large number of settlers moved from the Eastern part of the continent to the West coast to try and get rich. Of course for the most part those who prospered were not the miners, but the people who provided services or supplies to them.

The distance these people travelled was immense, roughly 3,000 miles (almost 5,000 kilometers) over some very rugged and dry terrain. The white people had not yet completed the genocide of the native indians, so attacks by the natives was still a genuine hazard.

Lots of people were upset because it took several months for mail to travel from coast to coast. So the federal government let a contract for the first overland mail service, called the Butterfield Overland mail. It travelled the 2,700 miles from St. Louis to San Francisco in 25 days by travelling day and night, changing teams of horses (or mules) roughly every 20 miles.

To protect the settlers from the native people the government established a series of military forts.

One of the Butterfield stage stations and forts is located right under Cooke’s peak in Southern New Mexico. There are several Butterfield stations and forts between Las Cruces and Deming. Yesterday I visited both Ft. Cummings and Ft. Selden.

Ft. Cummings is well out in the middle of nowhere, right under the east side of Cooke’s peak. There are still visible remnants of the fort, the Butterfield Stage station and the cemetery. Cooke’s spring there is dry now.

The remnants of the Butterfield Stage Station at Ft. Cummings shows the same type of construction as the stations nearby in the Cornudas, Hueco Mountains, and others. They used flat rocks and filled in the gaps with mud. This station is interesting in that it also shows adobe built on top of the rock walls.

Just north of Las Cruces one can see Ft. Selden. There is a New Mexico state park there and the fort is a little better preserved than many. General Douglas McArthur lived there as a boy from 1884 to 1886 when his father was post commander. The black Buffalo Soldiers served there. The fort is located about a mile south of the hot springs which were initially called Ft. Selden springs. The soldiers from Ft. Selden enjoyed bathing in the hot springs.

After the transcontinental railroads came through in the 1880’s there was a rail stop here right at the hot springs. These hot springs became famous because of the high amount of radium in the water. At the time Radium was thought to be antibiotic and to provide various curative properties. In fact recent research has reopened this discussion, looking at perhaps positive effects from low levels of ionizing radiation.

In 1926 a post office was established and town was renamed Radium Springs.

The hot geothermal water is still there just a few feet below the surface. The old 1920s resort hotel and the baths are in the process of renovation. The owners hope to re-open in the near future as soon as all the correct permits are received and some access problems are solved.

Link: http://www.radiumhotspringsinn.com/

Friday, March 09, 2007

Deming Rockhound Roundup 2007

The Deming, New Mexico Gem & Minerals Society is in the middle of holding their 42nd annual “Rockhound Roundup”.
Today is Friday, and it will continue on through Sunday.

It is really a good show.
I spent about 5 hours there today and got several really nice fluorescent stones to add to my collection.

There are two large indoor halls filled with vendors, and many vendors outside.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

El Paso Texas Sky


I was driving my moped home from having a cup of coffee at the Bad Ass Coffee Company when I happened to look up at the sky.

For the last 20 years of my life I've lived in parts of the world where it is overcast and rains a lot.


Having blue skies virtually every day is really a treat. These nice cumulus clouds this afternoon sure are beautiful! Of course the caveat is they are beautiful when viewed from down below. I'm instrument rated and I've spent some time foolishly flying hard IFR and trying to zig and zag to avoid killer monster cumulus cells.

In a way even those even powerful clouds are beautiful. In an ass puckering sort of way.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Franklin Mountains Poppy Celebration



On Saturday March 17 there is going to be a poppies celebration at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology on Trans Mountain Road.


The poppies were looking fairly good this morning!


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Angel's Wing Calcite


In researching travertine I was led to aragonite and calcite. I came across a good list of the many varieties of calcite.

I have many different pieces of calcite from around the world that fluoresce including Nail Head Calcite from the Harz mountains in Germany, really nice Mangano Calcite especially from Peru, Dog Tooth Calcite especially from South America, and plenty of Iceland Spar from various lcations. Now I have added to my collection a large beautiful piece of Angel's Wing Calcite out of Mexico which fluoresces bright green in shortwave.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Petroglyphs - Alamo Mountain, New Mexico

Between El Paso, Texas and the Guadalupe mountains there is a very wild and beautiful place called Otero Mesa. At the southern tip there is an interesting outcrop of stony hills called the Cornudas Mountains. One of these is called Alamo Mountain.

The native peoples have inhabited this area for thousands of years. There is a plentiful supply of food and water in the area.

Just below Alamo Spring there is the well preserved foundation of the Ojos de Alamo Butterfield Stage station from the 1860s.

Many of the rocks have that ideal dark desert oxidized patina which is so good for petroglyphs.

Today I saw some of the finest rock art I have ever seen anywhere.

A truly beautiful and magical place.



To see all the pictures I took today go to this link: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/h_paul_garland/album/576460762392177284

Friday, March 02, 2007

Philip II of Macedonia

King Philip II of the northern Greek area called Macedonia was Alexander the Great's father. Alexander was educated by Aristotle. I have a bronze coin struck during Philip's reign in my coin collection.

I was fortunate enough to buy a second coin from him at the El Paso coin show last week. I gave it to a friend who is doing a fantastic job of showing it around to non-coin collectors.

This is a link to a site on the web that has zillions of pictures of coins by Phillip II:

Both of these two coins are both made of bronze. Bronze is a copper and tin alloy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze

Here are some pictures of other pre-Roman coins I have in my coin collection:



Thursday, March 01, 2007

Kokopelli Pictographs


Bob Durkin and I went on a little road trip today.

First we went to Deming and visited the Deming Gem & Mineral Society office and workshop. They have a very nice set up and the people we met sure were nice.

Then we went up to the City of Rocks New Mexico state park. The primary purpose of our visit was to see the rock art, and we were not disappointed. They have two very nice Kokopelli pictographs.

Afterwards we stopped at the very highly developed Faywood Hot Springs. I really preferred this location before it was developed.

After eating lunch at a nice little Mexican restaurant in Deming, NM we went over to Rockhound State Park just east of town. We stopped in the rock shop just before entering the park to meet some very interesting guys who run the geode shop there.

At the state park they have a nice little museum there which really is well worth visiting. It is small but has nice exhibits on the minerals found in the area, the flora and fauna of the area, some nice stuff from the mid to late 1800’s military and cowboys, and a very nice exhibit on the buffalo soldiers.

When we left there we drove up the road to Spring Canyon right in the heart of the Florida mountains. This drive truly cannot be described by anything other than superlatives. Really fantastic.

All in all a very nice day indeed!
If you want to see all of the pictures we took today go to this link: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/h_paul_garland/album/576460762391796524