Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Different Wavelengths of Electromagnetic Radiation

AM and FM radio waves, cellphone emissions, television signals, visible light (light that is visible to us humans), and X-rays are all the exact same thing.

They are just at different locations on the tuning dial.
Beyond visible red there is light that humans cannot see with our eyes, but that we can feel as heat. These are called infrared waves.
At the shorter end of the visibile spectrum, beyond purple/violet, there is still light that is just as real as those colors that we humans perceive as visible light. But our human eyes are not capable of receiving these frequencies. This is called ultraviolet light.
And the different colors of ultraviolet light have different names, and different properties.
Far beyond UV light (much shorter wavelength) is X-rays.


Wild Flowers

I have backpacked up in the Bernese Oberland section of the Swiss alps on several different occasions.

Once we climbed the peak directly across the valley from the North Face of the Eiger.
This is what the North Face brand of camping and cold weather gear refers to.

On the way up we camped in a lush alpine meadow just filled with wild flowers.
And then the next day we got up into the tundra which is weird and beautiful.

The desert does not have nearly as many wild flowers, but it is surprising how much life there is in the desert. I have tremendous admiration for the plants and animals that live in the desert. I took all of these pictures this morning in the desert within a couple of miles of my house.

Temperatures of 40 degrees C are not all out of the ordinary, and it is not especially rare to go six months with no rainfall at all. You have to be really tough and specialized to be happy living in the desert.

My house is less than 3 years old, so it has the latest in insulation and energy saving features.
It has low emissivity glass in the windows and triple pane glass. It has a white elastomeric coating on the roof to help reflect the sun’s rays, and white roll down shutters to keep the sun’s rays from reaching the windows. Both of my cars have good air conditioners, and yet I am already feeling the heat. And it is only 90 degrees F.

Ever Present Past


Paul McCartney has a new studio album called Memory Almost Full coming out in a few days.

It will be available in the UK on June 4 and in America on June 5.


So in order to show my loyalty I have ordered it in advance from Amazon.Co.UK

I like the name of the album. It seems quite fitting for half senile old farts like us.

The song “Ever Present Past” has a nice name too.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Beauty in the Chihuahuan Desert

The desert is constantly evolving.

And each time I go out in it I see more life and more beauty.

The plant that I grew up calling Devil’s Horns is officially named Proboscidea Parviflora.



Many places have really beautiful fluorescent minerals including Mexico, Brazil, Romania, Austria, New Mexico USA, Arizona, Peru, Canada, Greenland, Sweden, Norway, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Belgium, Italy, China, and England.

But without any doubt the most famous and prolific location for fluorescent minerals in the entire world is in New Jersey. http://franklin-sterlinghill.com/

I have more than fifteen stones from this area in my collection, and they all are beautiful.
Except for 3 that I got from Stuart Schneider, every New Jersey rock that I have came out of various different old European collections.
One of the nicest ones is causing some waves in the fluorescent minerals community, and potentially perhaps even some rethinking of the conventional wisdom.
I bought this particular stone from the Krantz collection in Bonn, Germany. I guess it was probably the third time I drove over to Bonn that they showed me this elegant beauty. It has several fluorescent materials including the zinc silicates hardystonite and willemite, and clinohedrite.
What makes this particular stone extra special (besides the fact that it is really unbelievably beautiful) is that their tag tells them that it was collected during the time period from 1850 to 1880. http://paulgarland.blogspot.com/2006/01/adam-august-krantz.html

Prior to now it was thought that the mine shaft which hardystonite came out of didn't start producing until the 1890s. Maybe 1899 http://franklin-sterlinghill.com/dunn/ch16/hardystonite.stm
So this may be the beginning of a little historical investigation. How fun and exciting to be able to play a minor part in this!

Poor Man's Airconditioning

Fifty years ago air conditioning (even evaporative coolers) were not yet common even out here in the west Texas desert, and refrigerated air conditioners in cars were almost unheard of.
Remember those semipermeable water sacks that one hung on the front of one's car from the no longer allowed hood ornament?
These are some really helpful hints.


Walking out in the desert this morning with my little black doggie Inu I picked up a couple of very light, low density rocks.

I am certain that they are volcanic in origin. After doing a little research it sure seems like the proper word to describe them would be pumice.

They probably originated either from the various explosive volcanic mars around Kilbourne’s hole, the West Potrillo cinder cones, or the volcanic activity up around Pena Blanca, which is just south of the Organ Mountains and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Either way they were clearly ejected far up into the atmosphere and then were blown eastward by the prevailing westerly winds.
Probably around 20 to 40 miles away (32 km - 65 km).




Sunday, May 27, 2007

Stephen Fry - Kingdom

Stephen Fry has a new TV series out in the UK on ITV1.

In it he plays a country lawyer (solicitor) named Peter Kingdom; a guy who basically has Stephen's natural character and personality characteristics.

His natural compassion and humility are brought out in the series. And his brillance and witty humor.

I really can't praise this TV series highly enough. It almost makes me want to move back to the other side of the pond! Seriously, watching this is the first time since I have been back in America (almost 6 months now) that I have felt a twinge of homesickness.


Antique Mortar and Pestle

Yesterday at an antiques sale I bought a really neat old mortar and pestle which came out of central Mexico (molcajete y tejolete ).
It is hard to say what "really old" means in something made out of wood. But the words clearly apply here.
The pestle is a little over 4 feet long at 50 inches (127 cm).
The mortar is 17 inches tall (43 cm) and 22 inches in diameter (56 cm).
The wood that the mortar is carved from is extremely old and weather beaten. The bottom of the mortar has been patched with a piece of metal, which certainly indicates that it has had extensive use.
The man I bought it from said that he had heard these mortars were used to grind up coffee. I doubt that. I am not sure what food stuff was ground in this mortar, but a whole lot of it has been ground over many years.
With no automation of any sort, just pure manual labor.
Here is what wikipedia has to say about mortars & pestles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortar_and_pestle

Saturday, May 26, 2007

El Paso Museum of Art

In downtown El Paso, Texas just a couple of blocks off of I-10 near the convention center and the Plaza Theatre there are several nice museums.

The El Paso Museum of Art does not have any of the big name paintings that you normally expect to see in any properly endowed and funded art museum, such as the suicidal lunatic from Holland Vincent Van Gough
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Gough Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Henri Matisse, Paul Gaugin, Rembrandt, Marc Chagal, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, or any of the truly excellent Spanish artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, or Juan Miro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Miro
I have been to the Louvre in Paris probably ten or 15 times, the Prado in Spain, and various other excellent art museums in Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, The Hague, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels, Liege, Brugge, Rome, Florence, London, Edinburg, Dublin, Copenhagen, Houston, New York City, and Buffalo.
Even though the El Paso art museum doesn't have paintings and sculptures from many of the really famous artists, it is very well done and honestly is well worth going out of your way to visit.
The museum is properly airconditioned, and there is covered parking nearby too, which sure helps when you come back outside into the intense high desert sunshine.
Right now there is an exhibit of air brush paintings of Caesar Chavez done by Gaspar Enriquez that is excellent.
----------------------------------------------------------- Lady Liberty sure is hot!
As you walk in the museum there is a very large and well sculpted bust of the Spanish Conquistador whose name must not be mentioned (Don Juan de Onate). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Juan_de_Onate_y_Salazar

On the second floor be certain not to miss the very timely painting of the El Paso Smelter done in 1919 by Fremont Ellis.

There are some truly excellent late 1800's cowboy and American Indian paintings which you certainly won't see in most art museums.
Pretty much every decent art museum anywhere in the world has a very similar classical painting of Venice to this one. But I never tire of seeing them. I just love these classical, highly realistic paintings.
Hirsi Ali and I have both recently moved away from Holland. A friend that I worked with there in Europe retired about the same time as me. He has also left Holland. He is an American and was raised in Washington state. Now he has gone to Venice (his Dutch wife is from there originally). Whereas here in the high desert I bought a Corolla to get good fuel economy on the incredibly long journeys that one has to take to get almost anywhere, a Toyota 4-wheel drive car to get into the outback, and a cute little moped for running around town while getting 70 mpg fuel economy, my friend had to buy a small boat so that he could get around Venice.
There are some nice religious icons and classical paintings on the second floor of the museum, and some excellent works from the local artist Tom Lea. http://www.tomlea.net/
The Dick Mithoff room is well worth visiting. I want to thank Dick. Other successful El Paso natives should think about following his excellent example. A sure pathway to one very sure form of immortality.


Military Working Dogs

My little black doggie Inu and I went for a walk over near Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
He was singularly unimpressed with the concept of military working dogs. I'm not. I'm very impressed with their bravery, loyalty, and love.
And it seems like after most wars we just abandon our best friends overseas. Shameful.

Cacti in Bloom


The Chihuahuan desert sure is beautiful right now.


The prickly pears (opuntia) and the cholla are both in bloom at the same time.


Korean War Veterans Car Show

A group of Korean war veterans in El Paso, Texas hosted a great little car show today.

It was really nice.

Having owned a ’56 Chevy hot rod when I was 17, seeing the classic Chevvies sure was a nice blast from the past.

Responsibilities of being a School Teacher

School teachers hold a sacred responsibility. Much in the same way that medical professionals (nurses and doctors) do.

When my child is placed in that class room for at least an hour per day with an adult of authority (teacher), then I have every right to expect and in fact insist/demand that this person abide by certain rules and societal norms.

The recent move towards society insisting upon measurable results and accountability is an attempt to move in the right direction. In the long run this also has to be accompanied by a significant increase in wages to those teachers who achieve good results in teaching their specific discipline. Whether it is the English language, reading, math, history, etc.

Teaching children English has always been important in the U.S.A. because we are a country of immigrants. A fairly small percentage of Americans arrived in our country being able to speak a dialect of English, the Irish, the British, and the Scottish. But the vast majority of the people who built America did not speak English when they immigrated. This includes the Dutch, Germans, Chinese, Polish, and the Mexicans.

Having lived almost 20 years of my life abroad I can state with absolute personal certainty: If one does not have virtual native fluency in the primary language of a country, then one will remain stuck in a lower class status. No question about it. This is true in France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and China. Being able to communicate verbally is essential to almost all parts of functioning in a society.

So high levels of competency in English language oral conversation must be at the top of the list of requirements for any student to leave school and enter society, either as a worker or as a stay home parent. Being able to function on paper is important, but much less so. Hopefully our schools will enable their graduates to both read and write, at least to some minimal level.

In addition to being skilful at teaching their particular subject matter, teachers have the ability to mould the plastic minds of their students. They are viewed as role models and have large amounts of sway over how our children behave, and what our children think.

In most jobs there are certain norms and standards that have to be adhered to. And also in most jobs there is a dress code, whether it is written or not.

My career was in food processing. If one is going to work in a food factory then it is clear-cut that one must wear a hairnet that covers all of one’s hair (to prevent it from falling in the food). The workers cannot wear earrings or other jewellery, and in most cases they may not wear nail polish.

A policeman on duty is normally expected to dress in a certain fashion, and the same with a soldier, or a priest giving mass. Airline pilots, stewardesses, workers at Wal-Mart, highway road workers, and CEOs of large companies all have dress codes. If one is going to accept work and be successful as a waitress at Hooters, then one must dress appropriately.

There is a almost always an unwritten contract between the worker and the company. The company aggress to pay the person (i.e., the pay check will clear the bank) including following the appropriate laws for minimum wage, overtime, child labor, health and safety, etc. The employee agrees to accept the authority of his/her supervisor, and abide by the norms of that particular profession.

Some jobs have extra high levels of societal responsibility, and so more is expected of the these workers. Examples are medical doctors, airline pilots, over the road bus drivers, operators in nuclear reactor facilities, and school teachers.

So for example, if a school teacher has sex with one of his or her students, even if this student is a promiscuous and horny 18 year old slut, it is simply not acceptable to society and cannot be tolerated.

Equally teachers may not intentionally impart to their students their own odd-ball ideas on philosophy or religion.

In the American culture it is not a part of the norm or considered acceptable to forbid women to drive or become educated due to one’s religion. Female circumcision is considered inappropriate, and it is not acceptable for a father or brother to kill a young woman because she dishonoured the family by having premarital sex.

If outside the classroom the teacher wants to be a homosexual neo-nazi who denies that the holocaust took place in WWII and lives naked in a nudist colony, that might be tolerated. As long as the teacher never influences his students to move in these directions by letting the students become aware of his/her personal lifestyle.

It would be completely inappropriate for the teacher to come to work each day dressed as a Ku Klux clansman, or totally naked, or dressed as a WWII nazi officer.

If the teacher is a man it would not be acceptable to wear to work the same Speedo bathing suit which is entirely appropriate for him to wear after work at the swimming pool. Equally, if the teacher is female it would not be acceptable for her to normally wear to work teeny, tiny, micro miniskirts without panties (accidentally giving the students occasional beaver shots) and extremely low cut, see through blouses with no bra on underneath.
Dressing this way may well be entirely appropriate in certain circumstances, but not at work when one is employed in the sacred profession of educating society’s most precious resource.

So liberal Western society clearly does indeed impose various limitations and dress codes on workers. And this is both constitutional and acceptable to the voters in these democracies. The only question then becomes where do we draw the line?

In France and other places in Europe where society is vastly more tolerant, secular, and liberal than in America, the majority of voters have now come to the conclusion that it is not appropriate for school teachers to wear any overtly religious symbols. In fact this is now the law of the land in some parts of western Europe.

Religious freedom and separation of church and state are fairly basic to the norms in America. So if a teacher wants to be a member of some radical religious cult, or a devout member of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddist, Shinto, or Moslem faith outside of work, that is normally their right.

But wearing overtly religious symbols to work must not be accepted. This includes female teachers wearing Muslim dress, such as the veil or the head scarf. Sorry, but this behavior is well beyond the line of acceptability.

A woman cannot work in a jewish temple wearing a muslim veil, or in a muslim mosque dressing the same way that a waitress would working at Hooters. It does not fit in with the cultural norms at the workplace environment and is completely inappropriate.

If a woman feels that she has to dress in a religious manner to fulfil the tenants of her faith, then she cannot in good conscience either accept a job as a waitress at Hooters or as a school teacher in America.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Burrowing Owls

A couple of friends have suggested that my owl friends who are living in the desert near my house
http://hpgarland.blogspot.com/2007/05/owls-in-chihuahuan-desert.html might be burrowing owls.

I did a little research, and sure enough Mike Cannon and Mari are both right on target.

LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burrowing_Owl

This morning the little black doggie and I were walking past their home. I hunted around a little, and sure enough I think I found the entrance to their burrow.
They even have saved some leftovers right outside their front door. Or maybe this little piece of bunny has been left there as bait?

El Paso Mineral & Gem Society

We had a great meeting yesterday evening at the El Paso Mineral & Gem Society. A retired gentleman from Las Cruces, New Mexico gave a really excellent presentation on fluorescence. He was nice, articulate, and fully conversant with PowerPoint. Also an excellent photographer. I’m looking forward to going out on collecting trips with him and his wife.

I displayed more than 50 specimens of fluorescent rocks, some of my Vaseline glass, and my very most beautiful Vaseline glass European oil lamp from the late 1800s. We both had brought some books, and amazingly both of us had brought two of the same fairly rare and obscure books!

We got to turn lots of people on to the beauty and wonder of fluorescence, and to demonstrate several different brands of UV lights. Between us we had four of Don Newsome’s UV Systems lights on hand (we both agreed they are the best), a couple of Way Too Cool lamps, and a couple of other brands.
I gave out some flyers for the Fluorescent Mineral Society. Overall it was a very pleasant evening.
Now this morning I have brought in all of that stuff from the car. It is now sitting in zip lock bags and boxes all over my kitchen, dining room table, and the room I have dedicated to fluorescence.
The rock room is just absolutely overflowing. It makes me think, maybe on the next fluorescent mineral collecting trip I won’t even bring home any rocks. Perhaps next time I’ll try bringing my Nikon and tripod along, and just photographing fluorescent minerals in situ. Outside in the wilderness. At night. Why not?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

National Seatbelt Awareness Week

I see from NPR that President Bush is still up to his "Do as I say, not as I do" routine.
One time I flew into the little airport at Hatch to visit Loyad Anderson. At the time he was the largest grower of green chile in New Mexico. We toured the fields for several hours in his pickup truck. When we were done and it was time to return, I flooded the fuel injected engine on that little Piper airplane. I almost ran the battery down getting the engine started.
I was so delighted when it finally started up that I just flew right away. I flew all the way back to El Paso and was on a short final to runway 22 at El Paso when I realized that I had neglected to put on my seat belt.
It sort of freaked me out. I thought that if I could forget this, then maybe I could forget something really important. From that day on I stopped being stupid and obstinate about the seatbelt issue. Now I always buckle up in the car.
Always. Its really no big deal. It doesn't cost anything, and it might save your life. Just about the best insurance you can get, and its free.


Cool Cities

The legislators in Washington, D.C. are constantly wrapped up in all sorts of battles. Mostly to do with making certain they get re-elected. Like one of El Paso's State Representatives Pat Haggerty said recently, most of them have never held down a real job, and they are used to “sucking off the public titt.” ----- Well said Pat!

So anything that is going to be accomplished regarding Global Warming and reducing our carbon footprint is largely falling at the lowest level - on cities.

Cities are responsible for 75% of the pollution that causes global warming. The mayors of cities representing 64 million people have signed on to a program that will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Nearby this includes the mayors of Tucson, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Ruidoso, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. In Texas San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Houston are all onboard.

It seems reasonable to ask, “Why is El Paso not on the list?”

LINK: http://www.coolcities.us/

Owls in the Chihuahuan Desert

The Chihuahuan desert seems devoid of life to those poor ignorant folks who only drive past on the freeway doing 70 miles per hour with their windows closed and their air conditioner running full tilt.

But when you regularly walk around in the desert you quickly realize that it is absolutely full of life. I am very lucky that less than one mile from my house there is virgin desert. It has never been farmed, logged, mined, or built upon.

If you have lived in Europe or the UK you realize how special this is. Virtually all of the usable ground over there has been used. Many times on the same piece of farm land you can find evidence of stone age (Neolithic) man, sometimes going back as far as 5,500 BC. If you know what to look for you may find evidence of bronze age man (1,500 BC), the Romans 2,000 years before present era, occasionally evidence from the dark ages beginning around 800 AD, and certainly middle age or renaissance people.

And you may well see bomb craters from WWI or WWII. All on the same piece of earth.

And this same plot of land now is just forest or farm land which is deeply ploughed by the farmer’s John Deere tractor.

So virgin land that is filled with native plants and wildlife is indeed very special.

Every morning I take my little black doggie on a nice one mile (or more) walk in this virgin desert without a leash. He loves to chase the rabbits and the lizards.

One of the trails that we sometimes take goes right past where a couple of owls live. I have seen them several times, right in the same location. They have left a nice big trash pit with parts and pieces of rabbits, other birds, and egg shells.

When we walk past their abode one of them normally swoops and hovers overhead like a Vietnam era helicopter getting ready to drop its load of napalm all the while yelling really awful things at Inu and myself.

Once in a while a rabbit will go down its hole trying to get away from Inu. He is a remarkable athlete and can run amazingly fast over the sand dunes.

Today he was determined that he was going to dig the little bunnie rabbit out.

I just hoped that this was not the home of a snake!